MONTREAL - The Blues wrap up a season-long six-game road trip with tonight’s game at the Bell Centre in Montreal (6:30 p.m. CT, FSMW, KMOX).
It’s been a successful trip thus far as the Blues have collected four consecutive wins and are 4-1-0 this season on the road.
What’s been the key?
“Everyone has bought in,” said goalie Jake Allen, who will start tonight. “Everyone is on the same page, everyone is understanding the roles and understanding the game plan. We’re all executing it to the best of our ability and it’s working for us. If we keep doing that this year, we’re going to have good success.”
Yet again, the Blues will be put to the test tonight against the Canadiens, who are the only remaining undefeated team in the League.
"No one's found the kryptonite to put them away and find a way to steal points from them,” said Blues captain David Backes. “But we've played pretty good hockey and it should be one heckuva matchup.”
A heck of a matchup might be an understatement. The Blues are seeking a fifth straight win, while the Canadiens are looking for a seventh.
"They play four lines, and they don't just talk four lines, they play four lines,” Blues Head Coach Ken Hitchcock said. “They get as much from that [Torrey] Mitchell unit as anybody's fourth line, so they're never at a loss for energy. So if they have a scoring line that's not giving it to them they get it back with that (fourth line). They come out after goals, they come out when they need a boost in a game.
"So when you're playing four lines, you can keep the pace at a high level and then it's up to the opposition to keep up. Obviously the opposition hasn't been able to keep up with that plan.”
Last season, the Canadiens swept the Blues in the two-game season series. But before that, St. Louis was 6-0-1 against Montreal in seven meetings from 2008 to 2013.
"We know it's a tough building and a good team, but I think everybody feels that we want to play well in the last game of the road trip," Hitchcock said. "We seem to have gotten better as the road trip's gone on. I think if you look at the way we played in Vancouver, tough building, and the way we played in Winnipeg, tough building, we've gotten better as this road trip has gone on.
“We want to finish it with our best effort.”
AT HOME AWAY FROM HOME
The Blues are finding the road to be quite comfortable these days. But despite the 4-1-0 record away from Scottrade Center, the club is looking forward to getting back to St. Louis after spending nine days away.
“It was good getting on the road, now it’s good to go home,” said Blues defenseman Jay Bouwmeester. “We’ve been gone for a long time now it seems, especially with our (team-building) trip we had before the season started. Hopefully we end it off good tonight and it will be a real successful trip to go home and see the family.”
Added Backes, “Getting in my own bed, seeing my little daughter again is going to be two great things that is going to happen this evening, but we’ve got plenty of work to do before we get to that.”
Allen will get his third start of the season tonight, which is special for him since his dad grew up a fan of the Montreal Canadiens.
Allen also played here for nearly two seasons with the Montreal Juniors of the QMJHL.
“It’s one of the most historic teams in NHL history, and it’s quite a rink they have here,” Allen said of playing in Montreal. “It’s fun to play here.”
Allen will be looking for his second win of the season. After losing 3-2 in Minnesota to begin the road trip, Allen turned in a strong performance on Friday in a 4-3 win against the Canucks.
The Blues are still without Paul Stastny (lower-body) and Robby Fabbri (concussion). Kevin Shattenkirk (lower-body) skated today, but isn’t expected to be in the lineup.
Here are tonight’s projected lines based on the morning skate.
Steen - Lehtera - Tarasenko
Schwartz - Backes - Brouwer
Jaskin - Gomez - Upshall
Ott - Brodziak - Reaves
Bouwmeester - Pietrangelo
Edmundson - Bortuzzo
Gunnarsson - Parayko
Scott Gomez played three seasons as a member of the Montreal Canadiens, scoring 21 goals and 87 assists in 196 games. In his career against the Canadiens, Gomez has 38 points (six goals, 32 assists) in 38 games.
The Blues went 6-1-2 on the road against Canadian teams last season. They are 4-0-0 in Canada to start this year.
Backes has six points (three goals, three assists) in his last six games against the Canadiens. Alexander Steen has scored four goals in his last five games against Montreal.